In the Spotlight

News & Features
Mayo, the Musical
By Brent Wolfe
August 8, 1997

Click for audio RealAudio 2.0 14.4, RealAudio 3.0 28.8

The Mayo Clinic in Rochester is known for its extensive health care and research facilities, but a new venture strays outside the bounds of traditional medicine. The clinic is producing a musical written and produced with Mayo doctors and staff. The Doctor Will See You Now explores the complicated and private relationships between patients and their doctors. The musical plays in Rochester through the weekend, and Mayo officials are considering taking it on the road.
Audio: Sound of usher taking tickets.
You don't usually need a ticket to get service from the Mayo Clinic, but then again a hospital doesn't usually put on a musical. The Doctor Will See You Now at the Rochester Civic Theater explores all aspects of the doctor-patient relationship, starting from the patient's perspective.
Audio: Music clip: And this is our waiting room. How much longer do I sit here waiting? Wonder if I could have missed my turn? Yes, I know he's running late. I'm sure they know I hate to wait, but this is how it is. You'd think I'd learn.
The musical also hits on doctors pet peeves.
Doctor: (singing "Beeper Song") Living with the beeper, it's the medical way of life. (beep, beep)
New York playwright Isaiah Sheffer developed the lyrics and script out of a workshop with Mayo doctors. Rochester music teacher Connie Maragos directed the musical and her husband Nick- a Mayo ear, nose, and throat doctor - provided musical direction. Together, they've led a singing group for 22 years. Nick Maragos says he had a hard time in college deciding whether to pursue music or medicine. The couple recruited experienced actors and choreographers to bring the script to life. It doesn't follow a story line; instead, Connie says, it provides different glimpses at medical situations.
Connie Maragos: It's a message of partnering between patients and caregivers. We are either patients or caregivers in our lives, or probably both. The message is each of us have different dimensions we need to look at.

Audio: Song about the doctor of high technology - a litany of medical terms and phrases.

Actors dart across the stage, one minute playing surgeons jetting off to Aspen for the latest meeting; the next, patients trying to figure out how to get their hospital gowns to close at the back.

Mayo psychiatrist Jarret Richardson is chair of the clinic's Humanities in Medicine committee. He says he was skeptical about whether producers could translate the private relationship between patients and doctors to the stage. He says everyone at Mayo wanted to be sure not to make fun of patients. Richardson says the musical is successful at joking about the foibles of medicine but also points out the challenges doctors face.

Richardson: How - in the time pressure for seeing more patients and more technology - how do you spend enough time with someone so they can trust you with some of the most critical things in their lives, as opposed to seeing a technologist who provides a service?
The musical doesn't shy from what happens when medicine fails and a patient dies. In one of the more poignant scenes, a patient and doctor grapple with a serious diagnosis.
Patient: (singing) Will doctor say I'm OK? How can anybody know how I feel?

Doctor: How do I tell him, how can I comfort him?

Many medical institutions sponsor lectures or symposia about doctor-patient relations, but Mayo officials thought a musical could reach people in an emotional way that a more academic presentation couldn't. The Clinic originally intended to produce the musical for its own internal use but later decided it was entertaining enough that it should be open to the public free of charge. So far, response has been positive. Alan Wright, a Mayo physician in infectious diseases, says there was a lot he could relate to.
Wright: I thought it was great. It really captures the doctor-patient relationship, and the way patients feel - how they're people and want to be treated as people, not as cases.
After The Doctor Will See You Nowfinishes its run in Rochester, Mayo officials will approach other medical centers to see if there's an interest in putting the show on in their communities.
Audio: Song - Closing anthem (Doctor, patient fact to face; feel the hurt; protect from harm)

Song finishes, applause.